"When the Russians came, they took everything."

Wagner PMC ChVK mercenaries

In the CAR, both local and Chinese suffer from the “Wagnerites”

That’s Right – Evgeny Chernukhin – 03 May 2021

Original article

The President of the Central African Republic, Faustin-Archange Touadera, following the inauguration ceremony for a second term. Banga, CAR. March 30, 2021. Photo: Antoine Rolland / Reuters / Forum

Russians took everything in Central African Republic.

In the Central African Republic, government troops, supported by Russian mercenaries from the Wagner PMC, are pushing back the rebels, establishing their control over more and more settlements. However, the military successes of the Wagnerites are accompanied by incessant accusations of war crimes.

At the same time, a Russian-Chinese conflict is brewing in the country. Armed Russians are seizing mineral deposits, including gold mines that were developed by Chinese companies. The latest such case was reported by African media on Saturday.

War Without Rules

With the support of the Russians and the Rwandan military, the armed forces loyal to the President of the Central African Republic , Faustin-Archange Touadera , managed first to stop the offensive launched at the end of 2020 by the united opposition on the country’s capital Bangui, and then to seize the initiative. To date, many settlements controlled by the rebels for a long time have come under their control.

The participation of Russian mercenaries in the Central African conflict, almost from its very beginning , has been accompanied by accusations of war crimes and violence against civilians. Local media and human rights activists report extrajudicial killings, rapes, looting and disregard for the safety of civilians.

A Muslim man complains about the lack of security in the country during the civil war in the CAR. 24 January 2014 | Photo: Siegfried Modola / Reuters / Forum

Yesterday, members of the so-called 3R Movement, part of the opposition Coalition of Patriots for Change, made another such statement. In their address, they condemned the “crimes against humanity” committed by Touadera’s supporters and their Russian allies, calling on the international community to intervene and stop the violence.

“Russian mercenaries and the CAR Armed Forces are destroying villages, killing innocent people and arresting civilians who have nothing to do with the activities of the rebels,” the statement said.

Its authors also draw attention to the fact of the plundering of the country’s natural resources by Russians, promising to continue the fight against the occupiers.

What was in the UN report?

At the end of March, a group of UN experts expressed deep concern about the activities of the “Wagnerites” in the CAR, stating that there was numerous evidence of gross violations of human rights by them. The relevant letters were sent to the Government of the Russian Federation and the Government of the Central African Republic, but for 60 days, following the procedures established in the organization, their contents remained confidential.

Today, after the expiration of the above deadline, French Radio International (RFI) published some details of the UN investigation.

President Faustin-Archange Touadera, accompanied by Russian fighters from his personal guard during the beginning of the presidential campaign in the CAR. December 12, 2020. Photo: Charlotte Cosset / RFI

In particular, in the first two weeks of January 2021 alone, Russian mercenaries committed 26 extrajudicial executions, 5 rapes and 27 arbitrary arrests.

One of the high-profile crimes was committed on February 15, when government troops with the active participation of the “Wagnerians” occupied the fifth largest city of the CAR Bambari, located 370 kilometers northeast of Bangui.

The report of the UN Working Group on the Use of Mercenaries noted that while retreating, some of the rebels found refuge in mosques, where dozens of civilians, including women and children, were already staying. Breaking in after them, russian mercenaries opened indiscriminate fire on the crowd.

At the end of the two-day battle for the city, at least 15 bodies of dead civilians, including children and the elderly, were collected in the mosque.

On the same day, Wagnerians set fire to a health centre in the Elewe refugee camp near Bambari, killing at least one civilian. A source who told human rights activists about this information complained that for Russians “there is no such thing as international humanitarian law.”

Without brakes

United Nations experts refer to local residents who initially rejoiced at the arrival of the Russians, hoping that they would restore order after the arbitrariness of the rebel groups, but then became cruelly disappointed.

“When we found out that the Russians were coming, we were happy. But looking at what they are doing today, we wonder who their main enemy is – the rebels or us,” says one local resident.

A UN peacekeeping patrol in an area where Muslims live, forced to leave their homes as a result of the civil war in the CAR. December 2020. Photo: Laurent Weyl / Argo/Panos / Panos Pictures / Forum

The UN report contains many reports of rape, including gang rape, committed by Russian mercenaries. One girl said that she was raped for several hours by three Russians. According to another, five “Wagnerians” alternately raped her throughout the night.

Experts have collected numerous testimonies about robberies committed by mercenaries, which are of a systemic nature.

“When the Russians arrived, they took everything. They take everything away. Even pigs are killed. They don’t buy food, they just take it away. They take away motorcycles, phones, foam mattresses and even plastic chairs, “says another eyewitness.

Squeeze mines

The other day it became known about another dimension of the conflict in the Central African Republic. Since late last week, there have been reports that armed Russian mercenaries have begun seizing mineral deposits being developed by Chinese companies.

In particular, we are talking about the gold mines of Ndassima near Bambari, which the Chinese have been exploiting for the past few years.

Soldiers guard prospectors mining gold near a quarry at the Ndassima mine. 9 May 2014 | Photo: Siegfried Modola / Reuters / Forum

According to one of the representatives of the Chinese side, shortly after the cessation of hostilities in the vicinity of the city, 50 Russian trucks from Sudan arrived at the field, accompanied by armed mercenaries of the Wagner PMC, who dispersed the workers and took it under their control.

The Chinese emphasize that this is not the first such case. According to them, they came to the CAR to do business, not to fight, so they can not oppose the armed Russians.

The Chinese Embassy in Bangui has so far refrained from commenting.

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